Iraq

As 1000s flee West Mosul, UNHCR opens 12th new camp for displaced

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Seeking shade as UNHCR’s new Hasansham U2 camp opens. © UNHCR/Caroline Gluck

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, opened a new camp, Hasansham U2, in northern Iraq this week to shelter an increasing number of Iraqi families fleeing the fighting in western Mosul. First buses with newly displaced Iraqi families arrived at the camp already on Tuesday. As of this morning the new site shelters nearly 500 children, women and men - 96 families in total. The camp is located around 60 kilometres west of Mosul along the highway to Erbil.

This is the 12th camp and the latest one to be built by UNHCR and its partners in response to the ongoing Mosul emergency. It’s less than four weeks since UNHCR opened the Hammam al-Alil 2 camp, with a capacity for 30,000 people. That camp is now almost full.

Each displaced family arriving at Hasansham U2 receives a tent and other basic aid items including blankets, mats, a cooker, jerry cans, plastic sheeting and a kitchen set. As of today, more than 1,000 tents are ready, enough to shelter over 6,000 people. Hasansham U2 has capacity to accommodate more than 9,000 people when fully occupied.

The risk to people fleeing Mosul is now very great, with people having to move being in grave danger. People speak of conditions that are desperate and worsening. Families arriving from West Mosul report heavy bombing and fighting. They also tell UNHCR that there are no basic services in the city, no food, no water and no fuel. Some families have told us they have been living on one meal a day; often just bread, or flour and water, sometimes supplemented with tomato paste.

UNHCR reiterates its call to all parties in the fighting to ensure civilians are not prevented from leaving areas of active conflict and are provided access to safe areas, including those currently trapped in Mosul. Equally, civilians must not be forced to return to unsafe areas.

Six months into the Mosul offensive UNHCR remains concerned about the continuing massive displacement. Despite enormous risks, the number of people fleeing West Mosul shows no sign of slowing down.

We expect more large outflows of people from the west of the city. This is why we and our partners continue to prepare new camps, ready to receive those fleeing Mosul who are desperately in need of assistance. The first phase of another camp, al Salamiya 2, with capacity for 30,000 people, is under construction. When completed, the camp will have a capacity for up to 60,000 people.

Our current humanitarian efforts to shelter and assist displaced Iraqi families and refugees who fled to Iraq are seriously challenged by waning funding support. Our programmes in support of refugees and internally displaced in Iraq are currently only 18 per cent funded (USD 105.1 million received out of USD 578 million). This situation now threatens our ability to effectively respond to the immediate and mounting humanitarian needs in Iraq this year.

According to Iraqi authorities more than 630,000 people have been displaced from Mosul and surrounding areas since October 2016, when the military operation began. This includes more than 434,000 displaced from western Mosul since mid-February. Meanwhile, an estimated 141,000 people have since returned to their areas of origin.

For more information on this topic, please contact: In Geneva, Andrej Mahecic, mahecic@unhcr.org, +41 79 642 97 09 In Iraq, Caroline Gluck, gluck@unhcr.org, +964 780 920 7286 In Iraq, Andreas Needham, needham@unhcr.org, +964 780 920 7282 In Iraq, Saif al-Tatooz, altatooz@unhcr.org, +964 780 195 8468